Terry Hyatt was sentenced to death by the State of North Carolina for sexual assault and murder. According to court documents Terry Hyatt would kidnap Harriett Delaney Simmons and she would be sexually assaulted and murdered. Terry Hyatt was arrested, convicted and sentenced to death
Terry Hyatt 2021 Information
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Terry Alvin Hyatt (defendant) was indicted on 3 May 1999 for the first-degree kidnapping, robbery with a dangerous weapon, first-degree rape, and first-degree murder of Harriett Delaney Simmons occurring on or about 15 April 1979 and for the first-degree kidnapping, robbery with a dangerous weapon, first-degree rape, and first-degree murder of Betty Sue McConnell occurring on or about 25 August 1979. Defendant was tried capitally at the 10 January 2000 session of Superior Court, Buncombe County. The jury returned verdicts of guilty for each charge, with the first-degree murder verdicts based on malice, premeditation, and deliberation and under the felony murder rule. At the conclusion of the capital sentencing proceeding, the jury recommended a sentence of death for the murder of Simmons and a sentence of death for the murder of McConnell, and the trial court entered judgment in accordance with these recommendations. The trial court also sentenced defendant to six consecutive terms of life imprisonment for the noncapital felony convictions.
The state’s evidence presented at trial, as relevant to defendant’s assignments of error, tended to show the following: At 1:00 a.m. on 14 April 1979, Simmons left her job in Raleigh and started driving to Nashville, Tennessee, to visit a friend. Simmons told her family that she expected to arrive in Nashville by 7:00 or 8:00 a.m. When she had not called by 10:30 a.m. the next day, her family called the residence of Simmons’ friend in Tennessee and discovered that she had never arrived. They then notified the police that Simmons was missing.
On 20 April 1979, Ronald Wayne Dement, a family friend, decided to drive along the route he believed Simmons would have driven to Nashville. Dement found Simmons’ car at a rest stop on Interstate 40 west of Statesville and observed that her suitcase and thermos were inside the car but that her keys and purse were missing. Following a search, Simmons could not be located in the area around the rest stop.
Almost one year after Simmons disappeared, the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Department received a report that a skull and skeleton were spotted in a wooded area at the edge of the Pisgah National Forest near Highway 151 in Candler, North Carolina. A search of the area produced bones, clothing, jewelry, a set of car keys, other personal effects, and a short segment of silver duct tape. The personal items found were identified as belonging to Simmons. Billy Matthews, State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) Special Agent, matched the keys recovered at the scene to the number on the sales order made out to Simmons at the Toyota dealership where she purchased her car. Using dental records, the remains were positively identified as those of Simmons. An autopsy and examination of the skeletal remains revealed that death was caused by multiple stab wounds to the left chest made with a knife or knife-like object that would have penetrated the heart, lungs, or other vital organs.
The state’s evidence regarding the McConnell case tended to show that around 11:30 p.m. on 24 August 1979, McConnell telephoned her mother from work to let her know she was meeting a friend at a local bowling alley in Asheville. During the early morning hours of 25 August 1979, Don and Sue Helms looked out the window of their home along the French Broad River in Asheville and saw a woman later identified as McConnell lying in a driveway. The woman had multiple stab wounds to her chest, extending from below her neck to her stomach.
When she was discovered by the Helmses, McConnell’s body was soaking wet, her chest was covered with blood, her skin was very white, and she was gasping for air. Before she died, McConnell made two statements to the Helmses: “I was stabbed and thrown into the river,” and “I was picked up at work by two guys.” McConnell’s sunglasses were found on the bank of the river, and law enforcement officers found bloodstains in an area of grass, with a trail of blood leading from the river to the point where McConnell was found in the Helmses’ driveway, approximately fifty feet from the river. McConnell’s car was located upstream, submerged in the river, with a scrape on its side and the driver’s window rolled down. An autopsy showed five stab wounds to McConnell’s left chest. A wound below the collarbone went through the upper lobe of the lung and perforated the pulmonary artery, causing McConnell’s death. The autopsy also revealed the presence of a cloudy material in the vaginal vault, later identified as sperm, which was collected with other rape kit evidence and sent to the SBI lab on 31 August 1979.
On 13 August 1998, Jerry Harmon visited Captain Pat Hefner at the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Department. Harmon, who was intoxicated at the time and was a self-proclaimed heavy drinker, informed Captain Hefner that he had information that he wanted to get off his mind. Harmon described to officers the rape and murder of McConnell by defendant. Harmon related that on 24 August 1979, he and defendant “drank all day and-and just rode around and partied.” Sometime between 10:00 p.m. and midnight, as defendant and Harmon were driving, defendant pulled the truck beside a car stopped at a traffic light and gestured obscenely to the woman driving the car next to them. When the woman drove off after the light changed, defendant positioned his truck behind the woman’s car and drove into its back bumper, forcing it off the road.
Defendant ran to the woman’s car, opened the door, pushed the woman into the passenger seat, yelled to Harmon to follow him, and drove off. Harmon followed defendant until he pulled off the road in an isolated wooded area. Defendant exited the car with the woman, holding a knife on her, and took her to the back of the truck Harmon was driving. Defendant told her that they would not hurt her but that they were going to have sex with her and let her go. Defendant proceeded to rape the woman while Harmon watched from outside the truck.
Defendant forced McConnell back into her car and drove to an isolated location adjacent to the French Broad River with Harmon following in the truck. Defendant took McConnell down to the river and out of Harmon’s sight, but Harmon could hear McConnell screaming. Defendant returned to the truck and told Harmon he had stabbed McConnell and thrown her into the river. Harmon followed defendant, who was driving McConnell’s car, to another location upstream, where defendant disposed of the car by driving it into the river.
At the time of Harmon’s meeting with Captain Hefner, Harmon also informed officers that Dean Helms, a mutual friend of defendant and Harmon, knew about the McConnell murder. In October 1998, R. Timothy Shook, an SBI Agent who focused on unsolved murders, and Detective Anne Benjamin of the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Department questioned Helms at his home about the kidnapping. Helms said he was glad to see the officers and had been praying about it. Helms thereafter began describing how he and defendant had kidnapped a woman from a rest area twenty years previously during a drive from Greensboro to Asheville. Agent Shook recognized the details of this account as being very similar to the unsolved murder of Simmons.
At trial, Helms testified that while he and defendant were returning from a beach trip in 1979, they encountered a woman with car trouble at a rest stop. Defendant told the woman they could help by driving her to get a part that would fix her car. Helms testified that the woman got into their van, but later stated that defendant “took her unwillingly.” They drove up a mountain outside of Candler, North Carolina, and stopped on a dirt road, where defendant had sex with the woman in the back of the van. Helms testified that defendant did not rape the woman because “she was willing” but that she was scared of both of them because defendant was carrying a knife.
Defendant then took the woman into the woods while Helms remained in the van. Helms heard the woman screaming. After approximately thirty minutes, Helms saw defendant emerge from the woods alone, with blood on the bottom of his shirt. Defendant told Helms that the woman had “took off walking.” The two men drove back down the mountain and threw the woman’s purse out as they drove.
Defendant presented no evidence during the guilt phase of the trial. Additional facts are provided as necessary below in addressing defendant’s arguments.